Monday, February 28, 2011

Republicans Work to Advance "Castle Doctrine"

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are working to advance legislation that would expand protections for individuals who use deadly force in threatening situations. Senate Bill 34, which is loosely referred to as the "Castle Doctrine," is currently being debated in the NC Senate and, if passed, will be sent to the House for consideration.

Republicans are pushing for passage of the law because they want to provide legal cover for individuals who use deadly force to defend themselves. Senator Andrew Brock (R - Mocksville) is the primary sponsor of the bill. The legislation receives its nickname from the notion that "a man's home is his castle and he has a right to defend it."

In essence, the Castle Doctrine would make it so lawful occupants of homes, businesses, and automobiles are presumed to be in fear of their life and justified in using deadly force against a person who is illegally breaking into a building or car. Therefore, the burden of proof would be shifted to the prosecutor instead of the victim in proving whether or not it was an act of self defense.

The legislation would also limit the "duty to retreat," making it so crime victims may stand their ground and use deadly force when they are being threatened.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is a Class Act

I recently spent a few days in Columbia, SC. While I was there, I decided to pay a visit to the state capital building.

The South Carolina State House is the capital building for the state of South Carolina. It is a beautiful building with stunning architectural features. Construction on the building began in the mid-1800s, prior to the Civil War.

When I arrived at the state capital building, I walked upstairs to the lobby located between the House and Senate chambers. The South Carolina General Assembly is currently in session, so the room was full of lobbyist, reporters, and elected officials. I spent a few minutes sitting in the lounge area of the upstairs lobby, observing the activities.

After spending about an hour in the upstairs lobby, I walked downstairs to the main lobby. When I got there, I noticed that there was a press conference taking place. As I got closer, I was able to see that it was Governor Nikki Haley who was holding the press conference.

When the press conference was over, I was able to approach the governor as she was walking back to her office. I introduced myself and we had a brief conversation. She then gave me her autograph and took the time to take a picture with me.

Governor Haley was very cordial and gracious with her time. She has a warm personality and a professional demeanor. At the age 39, she is the youngest governor in the United States. She has had an impressive career thus far, and I have a feeling that it is only going to get better.

Friday, February 18, 2011

GOP Objects to Extension of Extra Sales Tax

Yesterday, Governor Bev Perdue introduced her budget proposal for the new fiscal year. It is a $19.9 billion budget that includes spending cuts along with the extension of a “temporary” sales tax increase. While Republican lawmakers applauded certain parts of the budget proposal, they are decisively against any effort to retain any part of a sales tax increase.

In the summer of 2009, Governor Perdue asked for and received a “temporary” 1-cent increase in the state sales tax. When asked why anyone should trust that the sales tax increase would be temporary, Perdue responded by saying, “Because I’m the governor.”

Now, less than two years later, Perdue is proposing a budget that extends three quarters (0.75 cent) of the 1-cent sales tax increase in an effort to generate revenue for the government. Republicans lawmakers, many of whom campaigned against tax increases, are not happy with the proposal.

Perdue also advocated a two percent cut in North Carolina’s corporate tax rate, which would bring the rate down to 4.9 percent. This would be a good move because lowering the corporate tax rate will create a better business environment and help to make North Carolina more competitive. Republican lawmakers, many of whom have spent years advocating for lower taxes, applauded the idea.

While Perdue’s budget doesn’t decrease any funding for classrooms and teachers, it does call for the government to cut funds for non-instructional services (such as janitors) within the public school system. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) expressed concern over such a move, asserting that it would be unfair to shift the burden to local governments because they would be forced to either raise taxes or cut services.

Perdue’s budget also calls for the elimination of 10,000 state government positions. As many as 3,000 of those positions may currently be filled, making layoffs a near certainty.

Now that Perdue has released her budget ideas, Republican lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House and Senate will move forward with writing their own tax and spending plans. Once finished, these plans will be sent to Governor Perdue, who wields veto power over whatever the General Assembly may send her. This means that there is plenty of debate that will take place before a final budget goes into effect.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

North Carolina Republicans Work to Reduce Government Regulations

Republicans in the North Carolina Senate are proposing legislation that would overhaul the regulatory powers of state government.

For starters, there is a bill in the Senate (SB 22) that would prohibit state agencies from imposing new regulations until a committee is put in place to oversee the process. And another bill (SJR 17) establishes the committee, which will be comprised of members of the House and Senate, to scrutinize the state regulatory process.

The committee would also travel the state to hear from business professionals and citizens on the effectiveness of existing regulations.

Both of these bills are expected to pass the Senate in the near future. In which case, they will be sent to the House for consideration.

This is good news for North Carolina because there is no question that excessive government regulations stand in the way of economic development. Putting a moratorium on new regulations and creating a special committee to scrutinize government regulations is exactly what we need.

Also, one of the best aspects of the proposed commission is the fact that it will be designed to hear input directly from our citizens. This is good because there is no doubt that our citizens can provide valuable insight as to what our government should do in terms of regulatory reform.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

North Carolina Republicans Work to Remake Charter School System

Republicans in the North Carolina Senate are working on legislation that would drastically change the way that charter schools operate. During the 2010 campaign season, Republican candidates promised to eliminate the existing cap on charter schools, which is currently set at 100. But the legislative measures pending in the Senate go beyond those promises.

For starters, Republicans want to change the state’s charter school law by creating a new state oversight board to oversee charter schools. This board would operate independently from the State Board of Education and the NC Department of Public Instruction. The measures would also increase public funding for charter schools and reduce current regulations, such as eliminating limits on how fast charter schools can grow enrollment.

These measures represent a positive shift in education policy in our State’s Capital. It is clear that our education system has room to improve, but expanding the role of government is not the answer. Supporting charter schools, on the other hand, will help to make education less bureaucratic and will give more flexibility to parents and teachers.

Friday, February 4, 2011

North Carolina House Passes Healthcare Protection Act

On February 2nd, 2010 the North Carolina House of Representatives passed the “NC Healthcare Protection Act” (HB 2) by a vote of 66 to 50. The legislation protects North Carolina citizens from the federal mandate to buy health insurance set forth by the “Patient Protection and Affordability Act.” It also calls for North Carolina to join other states in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the federal healthcare legislation.

This comes on the heels of U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson’s ruling that the federal healthcare bill is unconstitutional. In essence, Judge Vinson’s ruling asserted that Congress does not have the constitutional authority to mandate that individual citizens purchase health insurance.

Now that the bill has passed the House it will go to the Senate for consideration. Due to the Republican majority in the Senate, the bill is likely to pass there as well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

North Carolina Republicans Work to Pass Health Care Protection Act

Last week, the Judiciary Committee in the North Carolina House voted 23 to 16 to pass the North Carolina Health Care Protection Act. The bill has moved to the House floor for debate and will be voted on in the near future.

In short, the bill seeks to exempt North Carolinians from the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care plan that was signed into law in March of 2010.

Although it is currently being debated, the bill is expected to pass due to the fact that Republicans have the majority in the North Carolina House. More than likely, the bill will pass along partisan lines, with most Republicans voting in favor of the bill and most Democrats voting against it.

If the bill goes on to pass, it will be a positive step in the right direction for North Carolina.